Romantic Castles and Palaces


Arundel Castle

Alice Meynell


Arundel

EVEN pastoral England, which has a character of its own so different from that of pastoral districts elsewhere — so much richer in its details is it, and so much blunter and rounder in its forms, than the pasture-lands and cornlands of Italy, or France, or Spain, or Greece — even this distinctive and separated country has variations within itself. The heart of England — the country of George Eliot and the tract which lies within near or distant sight of the Malvern Hills — has a drier, crisper beauty about its green fields and rich woods. The great peaceful plain is broken by undulations, which are lost from a distant view, and nowhere, not even by the brimming waters of the Severn, are there such perfectly flat fields, pasture, marsh, and cornfield lying together, even and low, as those into which the gently raised tablelands of England subside between the downs of the South Coast. Such lands lie about the feet of the Arundel hills, open to a boundless sky, invested in light night mists, full of cattle, watered by a little river and its streams which scarcely creep towards the sea where it lies level with the land, or in some places level with the hedgerows.

The aspect of things here is Tennysonian. Looking along the fields towards Arundel where it curves into the arm of its hill, and from a distance sufficient to lend enchantment to the mean details which mar any English town upon a close sight, the place looks like the "dim rich city" in Elaine. There might be a warder looking out from the castle keep, a knight might be riding up to the walls in the twilight. Not many years ago owls did hoot about that tower, but they died and were stuffed. The peacefulness of the flat lowlands too, the richness of the level pastures, in which the dark brown cattle stand knee-deep, the softening haze of lowland mist, and the general prosperity of things, all have something of the flavour of the same poetry. It is otherwise when the hills are climbed, and the free breezy uplands of the park, with the moory, dry, gay country towards Petworth, opens out. There we have a beauty which suggests a less mild and meditative muse.

Arundel dates back to the most respectable antiquity, for King Alfred bequeathed the Castle in his will, with the neighbouring lordships to his nephew Athelm. It afterwards passed into the hands of the great Earl Godwin and to his son, King Harold. And when William the Conqueror was minded to reward his Normans for their services in his wars, the Earldoms of Shrewsbury and of Arundel fell to the share of one Roger de Montgomery, who rebuilt and enlarged the fortalice of Arundel. The fair stronghold then went on changing hands, passing now to the kings of England, and now forming the marriage dower of a princess. Among its towers the Empress Maud found refuge from her enemy Stephen, and was besieged; but as she was the guest of Adeliza, widow of Henry I, he courteously permitted her at last to depart in peace, for the love of hospitality. The place was now the permanent property of Adeliza's second husband and of his heirs, and so, roughly speaking, it has remained, the fifth in succession from him being the first who bore the name of Fitzalan. The only interruptions of their tenure were temporary ones, and consisted of two short forfeitures to the Crown, besides a seizure by the capacious and rapacious hands of good Queen Bess, who kept it until her death, when her successor restored it to its rightful lord.

One Earl of Arundel lost his head for high treason against Richard II. During the Civil Wars the Castle was besieged and besieged, being first seized by the Parliamentarians in the absence of the owner, then captured by the Royalists after three days' fighting, and subsequently retaken by the Parliamentarians under Waller, who laid siege on the 19th of December, 1643, and entered the Castle on the 6th of January, 1644. Upon this an order in Council commanded that the walls of the town of Arundel and those of Chichester should be destroyed. Since more peaceful times have reigned, within England at least, restoration has been at work somewhat busily, and several Royal visits have wakened " our loyal passion for our temperate Kings," in the steep high-street and in the public-houses of the borough. A borough, alas! it is no longer. Having enjoyed, in the good old times, the luxury of a couple of members, it was reduced to a pittance of one by the first Reform Bill, and entirely disfranchised by the second.

The station lies in the valley at some little distance from the town; as you follow the road from the rail you have Arundel and the Castle before you, the principal object of the view being the great church of St. Philip Neri, built by the present Duke of Norfolk some years ago at a cost of £100,000. It is still new, inevitably new. That is a fault which time will cure; but in the meanwhile no little disharmony is created between the ancient ruddy colours of the old walls, of the Castle with its town and the somewhat harsh whiteness of the church. Its form, too, being upright, is not felicitous in its composition with the lower and longer lines of antique English masonry. It may not have been the Duke's express purpose, when he built the "house of God," to dwarf his own hereditary home and fortress, as we once heard a passenger in a railway-train passing the place declare; but if that symbolic and ascetic intention was ever entertained, it has been effectually fulfilled. The best consolation which we can offer to the lovers of the past for the intrusion of the modern Gothic church, is that the ruins which they admire were brand new in the old times which they cherish strong, sharp, neat, and finished, with no ivy anywhere, and no pleasing uncertainties of outline. As you draw near to the town you see the rich woods which clothe the hillside trending off to the right towards the Black Rabbit, where the winding lines of the lazy Arun pass inland. To the left stretch the fields towards a little place called Ford, and in front climbs the High-street. At the top of the High-street is the Castle, and then the road turns to the left towards this great dominating church of St. Philip.

The donjon is manifestly the most ancient part of the Castle. It dates from Saxon times, and is traditionally believed to have been part of the stronghold as it was in the days of Alfred the Great. It stands on an artificial eminence, and from its ramparts the view is wide and fair; westwards over the rich country, over the delicate distant spire of Chichester, to the farther downs of the Isle of Wight; southwards to the mouth of the little river Arun, and the port of Littlehampton lying with sea-side pastures around it, level with the sea; eastwards to the South Downs ; and northwards over the home garden and the thick woods of the lower park to Burpham, where British antiquities of no srnall importance were at once discovered, amongst them a canoe with its anchor — the relic of a probably half-civilized and Christian people, compared to whom the invading English were savages of furious wildness. At the top of the keep bide those stuffed owls which some years ago flew about its battlements. The rest of the Castle is merely an antique fortress dwelling-place, much restored in a jumble of styles, but with a general picturesqueness of effect. The alterations which it is now undergoing will doubtless much modify its details, if not its mass.

A little higher, and at some distance from the fortalice of Arundel, is the parish church, a venerable fane, some parts of it dating five hundred years back. Old and new confused together in the place, a Fourteenth Century font, some frescoes of approximately the same date, and other precious antiquities being side by side with brilliant windows of modern glass and in modern taste, and a number of energetic "restorations." From the tower the Parliamentarians poured shot and bullet into the Royalist-guarded ramparts of the Castle. The "Fitzalan Chapel," properly the chancel of this church, has been the subject of a sufficiently celebrated law-suit. Built in the Fourteenth Century by an Earl of Arundel, it was turned to secular uses — to uses indeed of the most secular kind — at the time of the Reformation and thereafter, and is now, of course, a monument and no more. As, however, it contains the bones of their fathers, the Dukes of Norfolk have naturally maintained their proprietorship and their interest in the sometime sanctuary, and it was recently shut off from the body of the church by the bricking up of the connecting doorway. The Vicar thereupon committed the legal and formal trespass of removing a brick, in order that the proprietorship of the Fitzalan Chapel might come under the decision of the courts. That decision confirmed the Duke and his rights, therefore the division remains; but the church is complete and ample enough for all purposes as it now stands. The monuments in the Fitzalan Chapel are of great interest and beauty. The earliest of them are of the same period as the foundation; the most beautiful is the chantry of William Fitzalan, with its fine and elaborate tracery; and perhaps the most interesting is the tomb of John Fitzalan, which was for centuries believed to be a cenotaph. The hero to whose memory it was erected lost a leg at the battle of Gerberoy and died in France thirteen months later, in 1435. He was buried in the Church of the Grey Friars, at Beauvais, Normandy. Not very long ago a discovery was made, in the Prerogative Court at Canterbury, of the will of one Fooke Eiton, Esquire, which had been proved in 1454, nd which stated that the testator had ransomed the body of the Earl "oute of the frenchemennys handes." In 1857 search was made under the supposed cenotaph, and the bones of a human body which had lost one leg were discovered. How or when the pious and faithful "Fooke Eiton, Esquire," had effected the reburial by means of which the brave Fitzalan slept with his fathers, there is no record to tell.

Quite near the grey and mouldering parish church, with its cemetery and its yews, rises the great modern Roman Catholic church of which we have already spoken. Close by is the park, to which we hasten, as the glory of the country side. A narrow embowered road, entered by a little gate, leads to the fair space of sward and tree, with its deep valleys and sudden hills, one of the grandest parks in England; lacking, of course, the charm and pathos, the nobility and humility, which the most beautiful nature may gain from the signs of labour, agriculture, and the poor; and yet not oppressive with too heavy verdure or any blank, damp, over-green spaces of melancholy grass and sponge-like trees. The soil of Arundel Park is composed chiefly of that great flower-bearer chalk. It is so thin that it does not nourish gigantically heavy trees, but lighter and gayer beeches. The ground is high and abruptly broken, and the whole aspect of things needs only some sign of the peasant's life to be eminently paintable. Hill beyond hill rises in distance behind distance. Under a fine sky the scene is so grand that, though fresh from contemplating that panorama of the junction of the great Rhine and the little Moselle among the hills at Coblentz — the landscape which the late Lord Lytton pronounced the most beautiful in Europe — we were constrained to think Arundel Park lovelier as we drove to Petworth over its open hills. The orthodox deer are here, in pretty and vivacious herds which number considerably over a thousand. A charming little solitary lake, haunt of that shrill bird, the dab-chick, lies in a hollow to the right; thence rises a thick beech wood, and the path that curves round the base of the beech-hill leads to one of the local lions, the dairy. The "tiled temple of cleanliness" is fascinating enough to the lover of cream and curds, but it is hard to forgive the demolition of a very ancient mill which stood on the same site. The air about the dairy is heavy with the luxurious scent of the magnolias which grow upon its walls. The road is leading us round again out of the park towards the town; and here is a relic of the past In the shape of a ruined Dominican priory, which was built in 1396, and which gave a home to twenty poor men living under the protection of a friar, until an end was put to the charity at the dissolution of monasteries; and at the time of Waller's siege of the Castle, the priory was already in ruins. If instead of winding back into the lower town of Arundel, whence we started, we take the road away to the left, we shall reach the "Black Rabbit," already mentioned, where the dark, rich woods crowd the hillside, the little Arun sauntering at its feet. The Castle looks well from this side, where trees and not houses surround it.


Romantic Castles and Palaces, As Seen and Described by Famous Writers, Edited and Translated by Esther Singleton. 1901
Arundel Castle by Alice Meynell. Note: From original text; may contain OCR errors.
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